Outdoor enthusiasts search for state parks funding

A task force appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee began work today on finding a better way to fund the state parks system and promote Washington’s multi-billion dollar outdoor recreation industry.

Inslee also wants the panel to come up with ideas for getting children to spend more time recreating in the outdoors which he hopes will help stem the spread of obesity among the state’s youngest residents.

The 17-member Washington Blue Ribbon Task Force on Parks and Outdoor Recreation is supposed to deliver its recommendations in September.

Panel members come from the private, public and nonprofit sectors and do not receive salaries for their participation. They include representatives of REI, Outdoor Research, The Wilderness Society, Trust for Public Land, Sierra Club and Washington Tourism Alliance.

Connor Inslee, chief operating officer of Outdoors for All Foundation and one of the governor’s three sons, is on the panel too. The group helps disabled children and adults enjoy all facets of outdoor recreation.

The panel’s toughest challenge may be coming up with a means of providing sustainable funding for the cash-strapped state parks system. Inslee said if they come up with the ideas, he’s willing to expend political capital to get them through the Legislature.

“This is a very critical task because our state parks are in a very critical situation,” he told the panel at its inaugural meeting in Olympia this morning.

“It is tragic in my view to have the most beautiful state parks naturally in the United States and the most pathetic excuse for a lack of political and financial support perhaps in the United States,” he said.

Inslee also wants suggestions on how the state can attract more tourists to Washington to recreate in the outdoors.

A report issued last year by the Outdoor Industry Association found $22.5 billion is spent annually in the state on outdoor recreation. The industry supports 226,600 jobs and generates $1.6 billion in state and local tax revenues, according to the report.

Inslee knows the task force has a big order to fill.

“The state is counting on you,” he “My grandkids…are counting on you.”

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